Now, congressional Democrats are worried about the future of voting in the wake of the first presidential election since portions of the Voting Rights Act were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013.
Fort Worth Rep. Marc Veasey, chairman of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus, held a packed forum this week on Capitol Hill with civil rights leaders and members of Congress to address concerns during last week’s election.
“Many people are saying the voter ID law in Wisconsin may have swung Wisconsin from Clinton to Trump,” Veasey said in an interview with McClatchy, adding that he respects the results of the election. “An Illinois man moved to Wisconsin and they made it virtually impossible for him to vote. This shows us that the worst fears we had in the post Shelby v. Holder era are here.”
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that a portion of the Voting Rights Act which required nine states, including Texas, to obtain federal pre-clearance before making changes to election law was unconstitutional.
Since the decision, a number of state legislatures have passed new voter ID requirements and shifted early voting and voter registration periods.
Opponents like Veasey argue that federal pre-clearance is needed to curtail voter suppression, while supporters say voter ID is necessary to prevent fraud.
Texas’ voter ID law was temporarily changed for the presidential election, creating confusion for some voters and polling places. Voters without an accepted form of identification were still allowed to vote if they presented an alternate form of identification and signed a form stating “reasonable impediment” prevented them from obtaining a proper identification.
“In Texas, you had people saying the old laws were still in effect,” Veasey said.
The Tarrant County board of elections did not respond to a request for comment.
The Capitol Hill forum, moderated by former Bernie Sanders press secretary and CNN contributor Symone Sanders, included testimony from Rev. Dr. William Barber II of the North Carolina NAACP.
North Carolina had its share of issues on Election Day, where multiple precincts in Democratic-leaning counties experienced technical issues and asked the state to stay open late.
“After the Shelby decision, Congress has refused to restore the Voting Rights Act for 1240 days,” Barber said. “We now have an attorney general with less power than in 1965.”
President-elect Donald Trump on Friday morning named conservative Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as his pick for attorney general, finding in Sessions a person who is unlikely to push for changing the Voting Rights Act.
Congress could also pass new federal requirements to the Voting Rights Act, but is unlikely to do so under Trump’s administration.
“There are places like North Carolina where, because of some of the tactics there, we saw an 8.5 percent decline in early voting,” Veasey said. “We have to continue to raise awareness as the Voting Rights Caucus ... make sure people call into their state legislators. Let us know that they’ve decided they weren’t going to vote because they heard it was a hassle.”
Democratic Texas Reps. Shelia Jackson Lee of Houston and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas are also part of the caucus, which was started in May by Veasey.
Veasey was the lead plaintiff in Veasey v. Abbott, the federal challenge to Texas’ voter ID law.
“All of these things that...are going on out here is discriminatory, it’s suppression,” Veasey said. “It’s a page we don’t want to turn back to in this country where it (suppression) wasn’t just turned down, it was encouraged.”